The Austin Chronicle

The Daily Hustle: 4/7/10

By Wells Dunbar, April 7, 2010, 9:01am, Newsdesk

The Daily Hustle reactivates after the jump …

… It looks like the attention we gave an item before council allowing reactivation of permits on delayed developments was well merited. Item 54 on council’s Thursday agenda allows for the reactivation of permits on construction sites that haven’t gotten the job done in roughly 180 days: it only permits a one-time extension, and applicants must demonstrate efforts were made during the original time frame to, in the parlance of Larry the Cable Guy, git ‘er done. Still, that hasn’t stopped some from saying the change is a way to game the system. We quoted Austin Neighborhoods Council president Cory Walton, who worried developers could make minimal progress on a project, then wait for more favorable regulation, or ostensibly begin a project before new regulations took place (like a McMansion ordinance expansion), then restart with the old, more favorable rules in place.

The argument has gained some traction on the dais. Former ANC prez Laura Morrison tells the Hustle “you could put some money on” potential amendments to Item 54 come Thursday, “if you’re the betting type.” Ironically, she says the issue of what constitutes “work” on a construction site – and how long someone can continue working on a project – has been up in the air for a while now, and part of Item 54’s intent was to rectify that. “The simple issue is that we have the intent in our code if a building or project is not being worked on … it expires. If you want to do a project, you have to get a new permit.” This, she says, has created “issues in the past of ambiguity. As long as you’re working on your permit it doesn't expire,” she says, leading to “challenges and loopholes people found centering around what constitutes work.”

“This was an attempt, I think, to try and clarify some of that, but in doing so, they seem to have opened up all sorts of other arrays of other potential problems,” she says of the item. ("They" meaning city staff, we assume.) Whatever we see on Thursday, it sounds like the ‘hood representative will try to “find a way to really clean things up, to see if we can clarify what constitutes work but not open big gaping loopholes.”

The Hustle will have more in the print edition of this week’s Chronicle.

What the hell else is happening?

On the city calendar: The three-person council committee of Lee Leffingwell, Randi Shade, and Chris Riley convenes in the Board and Commission room at City Hall, 310 W. Second, 4pm, to consider potential appointments to the 2010 Transportation Bond Citizen Task Force, a topic that kicked up dust last council meeting.

The Capital Metro board’s “executive search committee” meets at the transportation authority’s offices, 2910 E. Fifth, 9am.

The Commission for Women takes up a light agenda in City Hall’s B&C room, 1:30pm.

The African American Resource Advisory Commission meets at the Street-Jones Building, 1000 E. 11th, Room 400A, 5:30pm. On the agenda: presentations from Health & Human Services and Parks & Recreation on social service funding.

The Environmental Board meets in council chambers, 6pm, where they’ll receive briefings on the Waller Creek tunnel, the Jollyville Plateau Salamander, groundwater regulation authority for TXI’s proposed Hornsby Bend mining efforts, and more.

The Residential Design and Compatibility Commission meets in the B&C room, 6pm, to discuss fun stuff like square footage calculations and the "Remodel Ordinance."

And lastly, a town hall on the Waller Creek District Master Plan will be held at the Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River, at 6pm. As the Waller Creek tunnel will pull roughly a million square feet out of the floodplain along Red River, anyone interested in the city’s plans for the indie-music epicenter would do well to attend.

Got something you wanna show the Hustle? Email it to wells [at], tweet it @CityHallHustle, or leave a comment in the section below.

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